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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba at the bat

Locals take swing at cracking national women's baseball team

Posted: 05/16/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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Now into a 10th season of existence, Baseball Canada women's national team head coach Andr© Lachance was in Winnipeg this week with one important goal in mind.

"That's one thing we've been missing -- we've never had a Manitoba player on the team," Lachance said Wednesday night at Shaw Park, where he conducted an open tryout and identification camp for about two dozen players.

"So I was thinking this could activate the province a little bit and we could get that going," Lachance said. "They have bantam girls going to the nationals this year and hopefully they could get a senior team started up down the road."

Team Canada has done well in women's baseball since its beginning in 2004, winning medals at four of the five World Cups in which it has participated, including last summer's bronze in Edmonton.

Canada is ranked No. 3 in the world behind the U.S. and Japan.

"Also what's important to know is that we've been added to the 2015 Pan Am Games program in Toronto so that's another reason why we want to find the best athletes to represent Canada there, have another chance to medal," Lachance said.

What's he looking for when he tries to identify prospects and future national team members?

Athletes

"Athletes first," he said. "We can tell them how to become a player but first we're looking for athletes. We're looking at tools, at speed, at strength, those kinds of physical abilities that are important for baseball.

"The rest we can teach. Speed we cannot teach but knowing where to throw and how to do it, we can teach that.

"And it's fun because we also have softball players attending. We've had some softball players that have made the (national) team, who have never played baseball before."

One such curious softball player Wednesday was Brooke Turnbull from La Salle.

She's a player on the Manitoba Thunder but on her 18th birthday Wednesday was taking a crack at baseball for the first time.

"I thought it would be a new experience and to be honest, I wanted to play at Shaw Park for an experience," Turnbull said. "It's not every day you get to play at the Goldeyes' stadium. And, you know, if you ever had it, the experience to play on Team Canada, that would be fantastic."

Turnbull said there were some obvious adjustments required going from softball to baseball.

"It's different, the ball, the distances and the direction of the pitch," she said. "That's a bit more challenging and you'd have to get used to that. But throughout the night, I feel like I've improved tons.

"I've only ever played (baseball) playing catch with my little brother."

Turnbull said she thought Lachance was on the right track, holding a camp in Manitoba: "I think there's a great group of girls here," she said.

Liadan McGill, 16, was eager to attend Wednesday's camp.

"I figured this would be a great experience," she said.

McGill, a second-baseman/fielder who lives in Inwood, is playing baseball at Teulon Collegiate and has her sights set on the upcoming tryouts for the Team Manitoba bantams.

"Mainly I'm here to have some fun," she said.

Asked about a future Manitoba player on the women's national team, she added: "I don't see why not."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2013 D6

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